US food airlift for Somalia gets under way

BELETUEN - Somalis rushed to unload sacks of food from US military transport planes yesterday as an airlift to the world's neediest people got under way. Four food-laden Hercules planes, marked with Red Cross insignia, landed in half-hour intervals on the gravel airstrip in this desert town 250 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, to feed 300,000 famished refugees.

The flights, originating 670 miles away in neighbouring Kenya, were the first for the multi-million-dollar United States relief effort to aid Somalia, most of whose 2 million people face starvation.

Meanwhile, two United Nations military observers were shot and wounded in the capital, Mogadishu, yesterday by Somali gunmen who opened fire on their vehicle when they ignored orders to halt, the UN said.

Witnesses in Mogadishu said several jeeps converged on the four-wheel-drive car in the southern sector of the divided city and opened fire, shooting an Egyptian major in the back at close range and injuring a Czech observer in the head. Doctors said three Somali guards were killed.

In Beletuen, dozens of Somali volunteers ran up to the planes to unload the 50kg (100lb) food bags donated by Canada and the European Community and put them on a lorry for Red Cross kitchens in the area.

'God bless the Red Cross for our survival. This is a blessed operation,' said Mohamed Noor Ahmed, a local chief in the strife- torn country, at a kitchen guarded by rifle-wielding young men in head scarves. He said the kitchen served two cooked meals a day to about 2,000 refugees. 'Thirty die of hunger, disease and malnutrition every day. So help from the Red Cross is a drop in the Ocean,' he added.

Under an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has spent nearly half its world budget on the Somali crisis, the US aircraft were marked with the ICRC insignia to deter gunmen from looting their cargo.

Somalia, one of the poorest nations in the world, descended into anarchy last year when rival clans began a scramble for power after overthrowing the president, Mohamed Siad Barre. Previous efforts to bring aid to the country have been thwarted by looting by armed gunmen.

Marine Brigadier-General Frank Libutti, commander of the US 'Operation Provide Relief', called the first day's flights a success. 'So far, so good,' he declared. For the past week US planes have been ferrying food to desert airstrips in northern Kenya, which is host to about half a million Somali refugees and 700,000 victims of the Kenyan drought. Daily food deliveries are planned.

US officials said Beletuen was chosen because security was better than some other centres and because the town was in desperate need of food, with an estimated 70 per cent of people malnourished.

Letters, page 15

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?